Gaming Laptops vs. Desktops

Gaming Laptops vs. Desktops

If You choose to invest in a new gaming system, the first major choice comes down to the decades-old debate of choosing laptop vs desktop. The best gaming laptops nowadays are rather more than powerful enough for playing any game thus making the choice even more difficult. Nonetheless, the final answer comes down to how You will use the machine. Without a doubt, if You will need to take the system on the road, the choice was already made. However, diving a bit deeper into the performance, value, and upgradeability of these systems can be enlightening for those who do not have such an easy decision.


Gaming Laptop:

  • Portable
  • Requires little additional spending
  • Little to no upgradeabilit
  • Limited connectivity
  • Weaker components performance than desktop counterparts

Gaming Desktop:

  • Stationary
  • Needs additional spending for peripherals
  • Highly upgradeable
  • Extensive connectivity
  • More powerful components


Corsair build

At the first glance, both gaming laptops and desktops seem to offer somewhat similar performance. They both have similar processors (CPU) and discrete video cards (GPU). It is no wonder that many first-time buyers assume that a laptop having Ryzen 7 and RTX 3070 will perform about the same as a desktop with similarly named components.

Yet in fact, desktops will usually outperform laptops in every resource-hungry situation. This includes gaming, video and photo editing, 3D modeling, and other tasks. The reason for that is laptops do not use the same components as desktop computers, as it comes to CPUs and GPUs.

Take any video card or processor as an example. The desktop Ryzen 5600X boosts up to 4.6Ghz, can be overclocked, and uses around 65W of power. Its laptop counterpart, meanwhile, can only reach 4.2Ghz and is limited to 45W due to the cooling capacities of the laptops. The same story repeats with each component as the laptops can not match the cooling systems of desktop systems. Using less power allows to avoid thermal throttling yet has an impact on performance.

Noise, heat, and power

Gaming laptops are infamous for the fan noise. The issue comes not because of the number of cooling fans, but their size and speed. As the fans of the laptop are small and slim, to fit in a rather compact chassis, they need to spin fast to cool the components properly. And as the trend of slim laptops is still popular, it is almost impossible to find any quiet gaming laptop on the market – they are all noisy.

Constant competition to make devices as slim as possible also impacts the thermals of the laptop. As the heat is concentrated in a smaller area and the cooling system is not rather big, laptops almost always will run hotter than desktops. This can impact their component longevity and performance since if the CPU or GPU is not cooled properly, it will throttle its performance not to overheat.

On the other hand, gaming desktops might not get that hot but they will use more power. Most gaming laptops consume less than 300W of power at load while a gaming desktop can easily reach 400 or even 500W. Desktops also use much more power when idle – the usual desktop could use up to 100W while browsing the internet while the laptop might go down as low as 5W.

Thus there’s a choice of convenience. Quieter and more powerful desktops that will add more to Your monthly power bill. Or a less power-hungry laptop that will get hotter and be much noisier yet will use less power.


Laptop vs desktop gaming

As simple as it sounds. Gaming laptops are portable, desktops are not. Of course, there are some minor exceptions such as Intel NUC systems and Small Form Factor desktops that can be tossed in a backpack when traveling.

Yet there is no real substitute for the portability of a gaming laptop. If You need a system to take to the class or office, a gaming laptop is the only choice.


Without a doubt, no matter a laptop or a desktop, You want a system that has good value for the money. That means good performance for the price and a reasonably long time of using the system before it needs to be replaced or upgraded.

Both gaming laptops and desktops provide good value when purchased. While desktops might be more powerful, laptops are not weak and pricing might place the two much closer than expected. Laptops also are portable that might add to their value depending on Your usage.

Gaming laptops begin at the price of around 800 which will be more than enough for playing competitive titles such as CS:GO or Overwatch. However, such models are usually cheap out on screens, case materials, cooling systems, and keyboards. This usually leads to a somewhat less pleasant user experience. When looking for a gaming laptop, You should plan to spend anywhere from 1200 to 2000.

Gaming desktops are priced relatively similar to laptops with the pricing of most models beginning at 800. Prebuilt usually offers better performance for the money but cheap out on power supplies and cooling systems that can take a hit on the longevity of a system. You might expect to spend anywhere from 1000 to 2000 to get a desktop with both powerful and high-quality components.

Long-term value

As for the long-term, gaming laptops quickly fall behind desktops as they age. The lack of upgradability is one of the main problems. A new GPU or even swapping both CPU and GPU to newer, more powerful ones can add several years of life to an aging gaming desktop. This is not possible in a laptop thus usually requiring to buy a new system every few years.

Repairability is an issue, too. Replacing parts of a desktop is a much easier process as each of them can be easily accessed while the replacements can be readily bought from almost any computer store. On the other hand, laptops usually have many proprietary parts that are hard to find as well as to change, usually meaning taking a laptop to a service rather than doing it on Your own.

Though it should be taken into account that desktop systems require additional spending when buying them for the first time. External desktop, mouse, headset, and keyboard can greatly increase the cost of a system while laptop users only need to get a mouse and a headset.

Still, value is strongly in favor of gaming desktops. They are more powerful, cost less, can be upgraded and used for longer, and are less difficult to repair.

The verdict

Laptop vs desktop gaming

In most cases, a gaming desktop is a better choice. It provides more performance, can be upgraded to last longer, and can be repaired with less effort.

Yet laptops offer portability that desktops can not match. There is no way to get around the fact that a gaming desktop can weigh as much as 20kg while the laptop’s weight rarely exceeds 3kg while also having a built-in screen and battery. The choice should be made according to each situation individually but when in doubt remember that a desktop system will offer a better bang for Your buck.

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